Bhutan Shifts Date for ‘Happiness Day’ from 20 March to 11 November: Is it Disrespect to UN Resolution?
By Gopi Chandra Kharel | January 29, 2014 8:38 PM EST
It was the same Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan that initiated the UN General Assembly's proclamation of the International Day of Happiness to be celebrated on 20 March, a resolution that was passed on 12 July 2012. But now the tiny Asian nation is set to change the date of its celebration and postpone it to 11 November, coinciding with the birth anniversary of its fourth King, a move that may send across a shock-wave throughout the international community.
A statue of Lord Buddha is pictured at Kuensel Phodrang in Thimphu May 20, 2012. Bhutan uses the concept of GNH from a Buddhist spiritual point of view
The 2012 UN meeting was convened at an initiative of Bhutan, a country known throughout the world for its recognition of the supremacy of people's happiness over the material prosperity. The kingdom's philosophy of 'Gross National Happiness' has struck a chord with most of the western world, which has conceded that the pursuit of economic and monitory goals do not always lead to one's happiness.
It will now be most surprising that the country that itself set the example and had been the core reason why '20 March' exists, has withdrawn to celebrate the "International Day of happiness" on the date as declared by the UN resolution.
Bhutan's national newspaper, Kuensel, has reported that despite the government declaring 20 March as a national holiday, it will now be a regular working day. Officials have clarified that though the country will still observe the day as the 'Happiness Day', the government cannot afford to declare a holiday since the people already have too many of them. They have said the day will be celebrated on 11 November instead, which coincides with the birth anniversary of the fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the person who is actually the founder of the concept of GNH.
The officials were themselves divided on the matter, the newspaper reported. "Is it appropriate to move the day, despite being the country that proposed for it?" Member of the Parliament, Dorji Wangdi told the news outlet. "Is it not disrespecting UN resolutions?"
People within the country are also concerned about possible backlash from the UN members and the fact that the world may not take the happiness day seriously if the country that primarily initiated it, pulls itself out.
"Celebrating GNH day on November 11 isn't a bad idea but what and which celebration are we going to celebrate? It is 4th King's birth day and it is also celebrated as children's day and if we add another celebration then I am sure there is no charm in celebrating that day," said a Bhutanese citizen named Dokdo reacting to the paper's report.
The country held its second only democratic election last year. The present Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay was quoted as saying by many media outlets soon after he held his office that the concept of GNH is a 'distraction' from the real issues of the country that are currently baffling people. He has said that he is more concerned about improving youth employment and economic advancement rather than gaining an international attention on an abstract philosophy. The new prime minister's stance has been attributed to the country's gradual distancing from the so called 'happiness day' that was pushed forth by the previous Prime Minister, Jigme Y Thinley.
To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail:
To contact the editor, e-mail: